Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon Race Weekend: September 10 & 11, 2016 | Allentown, PA
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Caroline Mann

“The miracle isn’t that I finished….The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~ John Bingham~

I think in life we are consistently in a series of binary choices: do I move forward or do I stop? The choice could be as simple as do I get out of bed or do I hit snooze? Or it could be as complex as do I risk security to pursue a career change or do I stay in a job that is slowly sucking the life out of me? However, each and every day, every moment, we make a series of choices that defines our character and our future.

I have always lived as a person who says “that sounds great!” before actually realizing what I am signing up for… that kid in class who raised their hand before the question was asked. In my heart, I truly believe that I can do anything - that my only limits are self imposed. It is this will and (unrealistic at times) self-definition that led me to register for the Via Half again in 2017. I love this race. It was my first half in 2013, my first pregnant half in 2014, and now it would be my first disabled half in 2017. I registered from my hospital bed while struggling to ambulate one lap around the hospital floor within an hour long physical therapy session. But, since I can do anything, when that reminder in my email popped up that registration was now open for Via again, I said, “ehh this race is my September tradition, why not?”

This year, I completed Via this year with an ADA plan in place from the USTFA to use hiking poles for stability which they granted me after a medical record review. It was painful, humbling, and rewarding. I live in this world that a person “can not get till they get it”. Us spoonies, the chronically ill, live in a world that is incomprehensible to most. The world where you can look perfectly healthy on the outside but are smiling through daily pain. The world in which you have accepted there is no cure but people constantly ask, “when you will get better? Do the doctors know anything yet?” You can not get this till you get this - empathy is an impossibility. However, what you can get is that we all are capable of so much more than we think.

Following that logic, I challenge you to sign up for something - don’t think - just sign up. Raise your hand before you really understand the question. If this mother, teacher, runner, hiker, who happens to be an autoimmune patient who spent half of last year in a wheelchair can cover 13.1 miles with metaphorical fire ants in one of her shoes, than you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Secondly, I implore you to set realistic standards based on where you are starting from so that the finish line is achievable. The only person you are competing against is the person you were yesterday. The miracle is not that we finished - the miracle is that we had the courage to start. I put myself out here publically in a hope that I can effect a positive change on just one person by sharing my story and mindset - just as so many little incidental moments in my life have done for me. Happy running, walking,or crawling to all!

My journey in photos….

The day I left the hospital - my dear friend (who is also a spoonie) was driving me home and instead of home, we stopped at the track. I made it about a tenth of a mile with my walker… I even thought this was nuts but hey gotta start somewhere! Best detour someone ever took me on cause it set the tone, from day one, that would be going around that track again.

I made walking and hiking a daily practice….people are usually very surprised to find me and my cane in the woods!

The start line photo in 2017 with three amazing women who are so much more to me than a running team.

My finish line picture - crying cause despite my arrogance, there was a huge part of my that didn’t think I would tolerate the pain and finish.. I would never have said it out loud prior to race day,, but I was really expecting this day to be my first DNF….stepping over that mat, it hit me that I was in fact strong…..

My medal picture that year.